Contributed by Rebecca Smith, MA, LCPC, CSAT
Summer can be known for casual hookups. The warmer weather pulls you outside and gives you more opportunities to meet people. Instead of staying in on a Friday night to watch a movie, you might decide to go out with friends because you can’t stand to stay inside when it’s so nice out.
I also have a lot of students tell me that they stay in touch with high-school friends on Facebook and tend to hook up with them while they’re home for the summer. Other students tell me they tend to meet new people at their summer job. Sometimes meeting up with old friends or meeting new ones leads to a summer fling.
But what happens when you realize that you’ll be leaving to go back to college in a few weeks? Summer seems to fly by! In May it seems like August is so far away. Then all of a sudden Fourth of July is over. August is now looming before you. You’ve met this great person while you’ve been at home for the summer, but now you aren’t sure if it’s just a summer fling or something more. How should you bring this up, or should you bring it up at all?
Keeping the relationship “undefined”
One thing that’s very common with college students these days is not wanting to define the relationship. Lots of students tell me they want to keep things casual and not complicate the relationship by putting a label on it. However, leaving to go back to school is a complication that will eventually define what it is you’re doing with this person, whether you like it or not. Even if you don’t discuss it, in August there will be a fork in the road.
Up until now it’s been all fun and games. You’re living in the moment. Time has a way of speeding up just when you’d like it to slow down.
Just having fun
For some people this decision will be easy. They just wanted to have some fun, and both people are okay with saying good bye once summer is over. Others will find they fell harder than they expected. If this happens to both parties it can be a great thing. The natural course of things takes place, and your relationship becomes deeper and more meaningful. You both decide to keep things going in a long-distance relationship when you go back to school.
Then there are the students who get caught up in a summer fling and actually fall in love with someone who doesn’t fall in love with them. This is the ultimate fork in the road you were trying to avoid.
You meant to keep it simple, but your heart took a detour. You don’t want to, but you can’t keep from wanting more with this person. This is when it gets complicated. It’s a fact of life that we don’t always get to choose whom we fall in love with. Sometimes it’s with the wrong person, and sometimes it’s just the wrong time. Even though you try not to say anything to ruin the casual fun you’ve been having, the end of the summer is drawing near. This usually pushes people to ask for things they know in their head they can’t have, but their heart pushes them to try anyway.
So you finally get the courage to bring up the possibility of staying in touch. They hopefully will be completely honest and tell you they are moving on now that summer is over if they truly don’t have feelings for you. It sucks, but at least you know where you stand.
Sometimes, however, they aren’t so honest. They agree to stay in touch, but you find after you leave that it’s always you who has to initiate a text or phone call. This can drag things out for weeks or months after you’ve gone back to school. I won’t lie and say it’ll be easy to go through this, but at some point you’ll realize the summer romance is really over. You’ll be sad, and maybe you’ll have some regrets over decisions you made.
Learn from your mistakes
I try to encourage students not to regret the past but to learn from it. If you did things you regret, then make a vow to yourself to do things differently in the future. If you feel you made a horrible mistake, sometimes it helps to talk about it and give others a chance to learn from it. If your only regret is that you fell in love with the wrong person, then don’t feel too bad. It happens to the best of us at some point.
I hope that later in the school year you’ll be able to look back on this summer and remember it with a smile rather than a tear. I think it’s great that you took a risk. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t always know how things are going to work out, but that doesn’t mean we should be scared to put ourselves out there. Sometimes you lose in love, and hopefully this school year or next summer will work out better for you.
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